quarantinis: 1 part vitamin sea

We found our house five years ago when we expanded our search radius on a popular real estate website. Instantly, we loved our home but the beach town community is really what drove our decision. Because both my husband and I grew up in landlocked states, it never really dawned on us that we could live within walking distance of the ocean. To me, that was reserved for vacation rentals and hotels — to him, it was just something you might read about.

Nearly five years ago, we moved into our home; we spend much of the summer at our town’s various beaches but that’s not all — 4 and I go to the beach every few weeks to run around. It’s easy to toss on rain boots and head down to the wide open space and it’s a great place to let the dog and older two play as well. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the area surrounding our beaches has been slammed — everyone is walking and trying to enjoy the beautiful weather we’ve had.

I get it.

In the meantime, we have spent our days walking laps around the school. Each day, I walk the dog about three miles — that’s roughly 10 laps around the school for those of you counting at home. It’s a real thrill. The last two days, however, I was able to get down to the beach and breathe in the calming vitamin sea.

The weather turned from sunny and nice to breezy and dreary — this was my chance and I made it down two consecutive days. It was a much needed break from school laps and my neighborhood, where it feels like we pace the streets. The sky was gloomy, but Bru and I were able to log five miles through the breaks in the rain.

The break to the beach was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits and I’m hoping that with the rain in the upcoming forecast, we can get all of us down there for a little frolicking in the sand. This served as a really great reminder that having the beach as a backyard really can make a difference in the day-to-day happenings of life.

 

quarantinis: 1 part planning

I will admit that my drinking has definitely increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. I typically have a glass of wine every month or two but have been having a few glasses a week. Thank goodness for our wine tour trip we take in December with my friends — we are well stocked for a few weeks.

It’s not all wine and dog walks though — last night, my husband and I had what was probably the most serious conversation of our relationship. It was about what we do if 4 gets sick — what is our course of action? 4 is medically complex on paper with a slew of respiratory diagnoses; in person, you’d never know but doctors and hospitals wouldn’t be able to view our busy boy and instead would need to rely on his medical records which are not particularly encouraging when we are both reading about respirator shortages and how other countries’ doctors have had to decide what to do and who to save.

Needless to say, it was a heavy conversation but we have a couple of plans in place. This made us both feel a little bit better. We are now on day 15 of being quarantined; my husband hasn’t been at work since March 3. Wild times. Still, we are optimistic — schedules have changed but our security has not. We are thankful for this because sometimes that’s all we can really point to for relief.

In other news, I figured I’d share some random musings and goals I’m setting for the next week or two:

  1. I am really happy I married my husband. Despite being cooped up in the house, we are calm and sane and he doesn’t get on my nerves.
  2. Every night, I’ve eaten a cheese tray. I love night snacking and it’s not a habit I’m likely to break; so, I think I’m going to try to switch to smoothies or fruit.
  3. In my mind, I’m the next Bob Vila. I am convinced I can lay new flooring in my bedroom. My husband is suspect of my skills but I used 7th and 8th grade metal and wood shop projects on my resume. (See #1 — the feeling may not be mutual.)
  4. I keep finding all kinds of clothes and handbags and shoes that I love online but am actually not ordering them all because I am not sure when I’ll be able to leave my house and I oddly am not trying to impress anyone at Whole Foods.
  5. My husband and I got an old school Nintendo, thinking it would be something fun to do at night. We are both terrible at it and lost interest almost immediately.
  6. Bath bombs/salts are really undervalued.
  7. My brain has been too bogged down with thoughts to focus on reading, which has been frustrating but I felt like I could write today so there’s hope!
  8. We bought 4 a two-wheel bike and are hoping that he will be a riding pro by the time the quarantine is over.

I am thankful for the outlet of writing and it’s really nice to be able to string some thoughts together today. My goal is to get back into my swing of writing because it’s always been something I so very enjoy.

I hope everyone out there is staying safe and healthy!

holding space

I have not made writing nearly the priority it should be this year. My semester is full of research and my “day-job” has been full of meetings, feedback requests, and letters of recommendation. Last week, I even had to return THREE unread library books but I’m planning on grabbing some more next week because I’m traveling for some field work and *should have some time to read.

The last couple of weeks have been a bit much — 13 & 11 came home and shared tales of stories/thoughts their mom had about their dad and me. It was a lot to swallow and honestly, I’ve been processing it rather slowly. Manipulation can be so great that even you start to question what the truth is at times, and fortunately, my friends and my yoga practice help to center me when I need it most.

The last couple of days, I really reflected on all of the people in my life who make time for me and hold space for my family. I am doing field work in VA at the end of the month — I have plans with a handful of friends there for dinners, drinks, yoga, and ‘talking library’. Each of these friends have arranged schedules around mine to visit and each of these friends have rearranged their schedules over the years to hold space and time for my family. These are friends who’ve, without a thought or question, have invited a family of five + dog to stay with them (regardless of home size); and my favorite, friends without children who have spent their days visiting zoos or even time at the Magic Kingdom.

In addition to my friends in DC are my friends from home — people I’ve known my whole life, friends from high school, and my college friends. All of these people make efforts to spend time with us on our visits back to PA. They have invited us to their homes, met us out for dinners, caught us at ballgames, and one college friend even introduced herself to my husband, 13, and 11 at Disney Springs over the summer because she recognized them from pictures.

Lastly are my friends in MA — the people who spend every Thanksgiving and Easter with us, who’ve done so before having children and do so now still; people I’ve met through school and work who check in and ask how everyone is doing, even when the conversation isn’t about our families. These are the people who manage to keep me sane when parts of my world feel like they’re spinning and I am ever so grateful for their grounding nature.

I am so fortunate to have these people in my life and it has me thinking more and more about others who hold space and time and love for not only me, but for my family. Sometimes, life can get busy or hectic or cruel and when those moments happen, it’s nice to be able to sit back and realize that those most important and those whose opinions matter are the ones who continue to hold space.

jan reflections, feb goals

I’ve been pretty pleased with the start of the year. I’m back to my mat, consistently, at home and maintaining my practice in the studio. In fact, this month, I met a goal I’ve been working towards for the last decade. I do not feel extraordinarily proud of many of my accomplishments but this one was a zinger for me and I almost cried when I got myself into crow post at yoga last weekend. Who knows how long it will take me to perfect the pose and do it with consistency but this was proof to me that showing up and prioritizing yoga for the last year truly has made a difference. For February, I want to continue this and support my practice with a little weights and cardio — I am not setting goals around this because 1. it’s not my preferred form of exercise and 2. I don’t want to feel obligated to move in any kind of way; thus, trying to add some different types of exercise 2-3x next month is all I’m really hoping to do.

Veganuary went pretty well for us. I had pizza a couple of times and while we did have those few slip-ups, we were 100% vegetarian for the month. It felt good but I’ve also found myself missing meat at times, so I am not sure how the next month will go. I’m hoping to lessen desserts; they are by far, my biggest weakness and even with the vegan-January, I still managed to consume some. I’ve been enjoying just buying much of the same foods at the store and then varying the spices and cooking methods. It’s required much less planning and has given me what feels like more freedom in the kitchen.

My spring semester has started but another goal for February that I have is to continue reading books that are not school related. I have read a lot about nutrition in the last month but I have a few novels to get through.

Additional goals that I have are to continue with my dog walks: It’s cold and the winter weather makes things a struggle but I do find on the days that I walk the dog in the morning, my day is better and I tend to be more active. The best part, the dog is so excited to get out for the walks that it just makes the day a little brighter.

Overall, the goals are pretty similar as they always are — listen to my body and do things that it responds well to (like more yoga and less sugar). I’m excited to see how February goes, especially with some upcoming travel to look forward to!

review of the decade

I hoped to get around to doing this before now but time slipped away. I’ve been doing things that work for me and bring me peace: yoga, vegetable consumption, and dog walks mostly. I haven’t really set aside time to write but I did make a point to add it into my planner this week because it’s also something that I enjoy.

My old neighbor posted this article on Facebook at the beginning of the year: https://www.workingmother.com/christina-fattore-unedited-decade-in-review-twitter-thread?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook  She also added her own decade in review and after much reflection, I wanted to do the same.

My rainbows and sunflowers review would look something like this:

Got Brutus
Moved to Boston
Hired as an English professor
Ran a few half marathons
Started practicing yoga
Traveled the world: China, Vietnam, all through Europe & the US
Got engaged
Got married & gained two bonus kiddos
Bought a house and can now walk to the beach
Grew our family through adoption
Took a sabbatical & started a graduate program (again)
Became a SAHM

My unedited review would be a bit different; of course, it would include all of those things but there are so many events that led up to these, some related and others not:

Devastated by having to end a toxic relationship; sold my share of our house before moving
Burnt out as a high school ELA teacher
Went through infertility & medical interventions: Surgeries, drugs, IVF.
Did not respond well to fertility meds and felt like a shell of my former self
Struggled with extreme anxiety; couldn’t exercise during IVF
Miscarried twice
Collapsed at Epcot (during miscarriage)
Lost two cousins to opioid overdoses
Lost myself and worked hard to find myself after IVF
Dealt with significant anxiety during adoption process
Struggled with identity as SAHM

Everyone acts like going through struggles are necessary to come out on the other side and of course there’s something to that but sometimes, I think it’s okay to acknowledge that what got you to the other side was nonsense and was unnecessary. Either way, I’m here now — mostly thriving — still struggling with the identity/SAHM piece but trips to see friends has definitely helped. To date, I trust my husband with a needle more than any medical professional; he’s given me HUNDREDS of shots over the years and I’m grateful for his patience though we both could have gone without all of the strain on our marriage while trying to grow our family. Still, here I am. Standing. Practicing yoga again. Walking my dog every single day (usually 3-4 times despite having a decent yard), and trying to stay grounded each day.

I really appreciated the piece that everyone sees and internalizes over what the whole reality is. Obviously, those closest to me know all that I’ve experienced over the years and I’m most grateful for those people who have chosen to listen, love, and not judge regardless of my messiness at the time.

happy new year

It is officially 2020 — I don’t know about you, but the idea of staying up until the ball drops is not particularly appealing to me at this age. I was asleep before 10PM and I have no regrets.

Today marks the first of the year and with the first, a lovely dietary challenge. Typically, my husband and I do the Whole30 in January and it’s something we look forward to. What’s not to appreciate about loading up your body with nutrients and nourishing what was is left behind of a month of sugary, boozy indulgences?! This year, though, we are trying something different: Veganuary.

I almost can’t believe this myself except that aside from our Whole30 rounds, I lean more toward vegetarianism than that carnivore life. I do like steak but easily pass on chicken and do not eat pork. This seemed like a good way to test out this lifestyle and see how it makes us feel. I’ve done a ton of reading on it and spoke with my doctor at my last physical. I am to follow up with her after our month to make whatever adjustments may be needed if we choose to adopt this long-term (figuring out B12 basically).

I am at the point in my life where I need to be making my physical health more of a priority. We don’t eat a lot of junk foods and I rarely drink — I consume plenty of water and exercise (though not as regularly as I should), so I really want to be more intentional with this in the coming year. In some of the books I’ve read, they talk about how diet is more responsible than heredity for things like heart disease and this is the primary driver of our vegan test. We really want to see if we can live a more plant-based life because we don’t want to struggle with some of the health issues our parents have.

My other January challenge is going to be to get back more in the swing of yoga. I’d like to challenge myself to set aside even just 10 minutes to reset each day. I also want to get back to taking classes during the week and plan to use my ClassPass for studios closer to my house than my typical place in Boston (though I will be heading there on weekends to practice). For me, practicing yoga definitely makes me a better wife, mother, and overall person. I need to keep this in mind when I am feeling frazzled and am fighting the reset my body so clearly needs.

For the first time on a vacation, I went to yoga. We spent the last few days of the year in DC and it’s always something I’ve talked about but this trip, I did it. I walked a mile to a POWER yoga class and IT.WAS.AWESOME. The class only had two other attendees because it was just days after Christmas, so I basically had a private class. It felt great to sweat it out on the mat and then take a leisurely stroll back to the hotel before heading to the National Zoo. This is something I’d like to keep striving for — at least one or two yoga classes a trip to keep me centered and reflective of my gratitude.

I’m hopeful that a few trips are in the cards for this year: Another DC adventure (with a side of yoga and my cousin’s college graduation), a trip to PA with the kids where they get to run around my parents’ farmette and head into Pittsburgh for a Pirates’ game, and hopefully a trip to Florida or some other place in south when the weather starts to change next fall. Travel is something super important to me and I’m fortunate to do a fair bit of it. I’d like to keep that momentum moving forward this year because it is something that allows me to feel like me as a person, not just me as a mom.

I don’t tend to make resolutions or set too many goals for myself for the coming year. Last year, I established a great routine with diet and exercise. I was able to keep that routine going until our Disney vacation and then getting back into the swing of things with yoga became increasingly difficult — there was always something going on in Boston that I had to plan around: races, wedding, and summer traffic in general. I’m hoping that with ClassPass, I’ll be able to maintain that schedule closer to home.

The last piece and, possibly the most challenging, is to figure out what I want to do when my son starts school. I started in a library program and while I did enjoy one of the classes I took, I am not certain that librarians’ roles in schools is what I am really looking to do. I feel like my career life is at a standstill and I’m not certain how to really navigate it. I am scheduled to take two classes in the spring but may cut that back to one only. I am really at a crossroads here… Aside from this piece, I look forward to moving through the year with intention, purpose, and kindness leading the way.

 

feast of the seven fishes

The feast of the seven fishes is an American Italian tradition and for my family, it is how we spent Christmas Eve every year growing up. My dad worked in an Emergency Room and thus worked many a Christmas but almost always had Christmas Eve off, so my fondest memories stem from that. Each year, we would go to my Aunt Sherry’s and Uncle Mark’s house where UM would cook up his seven-fished feast: baccala, calamari and homemade sauce with pasta, smoked salmon, scallops, and a few other seafood offerings in my Aunt Suzi’s gumbo.

We used to have so much fun running around and eating and enjoying each other’s company. When my husband and I started spending Christmas together, we started this tradition with our own family. We stopped traveling and stringing ourselves out and kept with this Christmas Eve offering of love, merriment, and seven fishes. This year was no different; on the menu: shrimp cocktail, scallops, lobster stuffed tilapia, crab cakes, seafood stuffed mushrooms, and calamari.

As usual, our feast was a big hit (and so were the accompaniments of vegetable and fruit trays, my mom’s cheeseball recipe with crackers, and of course, Christmas cookies. This year, though, instead of feeling my usual joy and reminiscence, I felt a deep sadness. My Uncle Mark is no longer with us; he passed fourteen years ago on the 11th. His sons, my cousins, Mike & Jack have both since passed as well. Both passed three years ago in September and December respectively.

I don’t typically miss people who are no longer around and mostly just continue on with my day but this year was different. I am not sure if it’s because I’ve felt their presence or their absence (even though they wouldn’t be celebrating in MA regardless) but it’s hit me harder than it has before and ultimately, the feast that has brought so much joy and happy memories served a different purpose this year.

I have tried to make the most of the holidays this year. Tonight, after dinner, we had cookies and opened presents from our Bruttie boy. Brutus is known around our family for delivering gifts of pajamas and books each year: This year was no different, as each of the kids got pjs and MadLibs. So fun. For me, Brutus somehow managed to order a personalized mug and book with him pictures in cartoon form — it’s awesome and such a thoughtful collaboration with my husband.

I am hoping that the pit of sadness I’m feeling is lifted a little tomorrow. I took a yin yoga class today and my body was really resisting many of the poses. (Yin is not new for me — I typically take a Yin class weekly, actually.) I’m not sure if that class stirred up something that has me in my feelings or if it was the nearly three hour long chat I had with another cousin of mine today. Either way, I’m trying to breathe my way through tonight and hopefully, bringing in that new energy and out the old will help ring in the holiday cheer tomorrow morning.

Happy holidays to those missing loved ones — and a special hug to those dealing with addiction and/or the fallout around it.